Chance in the House of Fate
A Natural History of Heredity
By Jennifer Ackerman
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Paperback, 9780618082872, 272pp.)
Publication Date: June 1, 2001
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In the last few years, a startling new message has emerged about our biology. Scientists probing the deep workings of organisms have discovered that all living things, from yeasts to worms to humans, are guided by similar genes and proteins, which have passed down nearly intact for hundreds of millions of years. At the most fundamental level, humans are genetically linked to every part of the natural world.
The award-winning science writer Jennifer Ackerman brings these astonishing discoveries together for the first time, weaving a mesmerizing story of heredity that is only now being understood.
Far more than a report from the field, CHANCE IN THE HOUSE OF FATE offers an encompassing vision of what these unities mean for our everyday lives. Ackerman's remarkable skills of description lend wonder and awe to the striking connections between our microcosmic makeup and the macrocosm of the visible world. Her voice is rich in imagery and poetry, vivid and deeply personal. Pregnant with her first child, she anxiously calculates the odds that her baby will inherit the gene that caused her younger sister's profound retardation. Illuminating the science of cell growth, she describes the heartbreaking cancer that claimed her mother's life. Carrying her daughter on her hip at the crack of dawn to observe the millennial orbit of a comet, she contemplates the universal circadian rhythms that measure the passing of time.
"This is the alchemy of art with solid science -- the real thing," said Edward Hoagland in praising Jennifer Ackerman's NOTES FROM THE SHORE. Her new book is a magnificent addition to both science and literature.
Jennifer Ackerman is the author of Notes from the Shore and Chance in the House of Fate. The recipient of a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and literature fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College, she writes for National Geographic, the New York Times, and other publications.